Fixing our Broken Immigration System

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“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” These words are part of the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. The Statue of Liberty is an iconic American symbol which represents freedom and acts as a welcoming symbol to immigrants. However, today it is a common feeling that immigration has become a problem within the United States. Even though legal immigrants, especially those coming from Latin American countries, are stereotyped negatively within the US, the biggest controversy is in regards to those who have entered the US illegally. While undocumented immigrants only represented 3.6% of the United States’ population in 2012, it has become a major topic of President Obama’s platform and a cause of great opposition between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

267px-US_Permanent_Resident_Card_2010-05-11To be considered a legal immigrant, one has to acquire permanent residency, also known as a green card. The process to obtain permanent residency is tremendously difficult and tedious. Also there are very few ways to be eligible for a green card. In 2014, 86% of the green cards distributed went to those with immediate relatives who are US citizens, other family sponsorship, or employment-based sponsorship. And then if one wants to request naturalization, the system is even more problematic and has numerous restrictions that prohibit people from applying for citizenship. This form can be seen here.Those looking for a new life of prosperity and promise, ideals that the United States holds dearly, might not have the luck to have a family member who is a United States citizens or to have already secured a job that offers sponsorship. Entering the United States legally without these perks is almost impossible. The Democratic Party Platform during the 2012 election promised to repair the broken system with comprehensive immigration reform, by bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and be put on a path to becoming a citizen.

In late November of 2014, President Obama and the Democratic Party finally fulfilled their promise. Since Congress could not agree on an immigration bill, the President announced a series of executive orders regarding immigration.

These orders contain a plan to “crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear deportation” (source).

Obama intends to expand eligibility for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which is a policy that allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country before they turned 16 years old to receive a renewable work- permit to prevent them from being deported. Also, a similar plan would be put in place, called Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), for parents of US citizens and lawful permanent residents.  These programs would provide temporary protection to families from being deported. Obama’s executive orders focus on accountability, letting families admit their wrongdoings and giving them a second chance, while removing those with criminal backgrounds from the country.

On February 16th, 2015, a federal judge from Texas decided to block Obama’s executive action on immigration stating that the administration failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act. This act regulates how the Administration can propose and establish regulations and gives United States federal courts the power to directly review decisions made by federal agencies. President Obama felt that he was “well within his legal authority” and has appealed the Texas judge’s decision. This court decision was made days after Texas and 25 other states filed a federal lawsuit to stop the executive actions. These states, which as one would assume, are mostly conservative states located in the South and Midwest, believe that President Obama is acting unconstitutionally. Most conservatives do not support allowing undocumented families’ any type of amnesty; they feel that they had broken the law when they entered the country, thus are criminals who should be deported. All and all, this ends up just prolonging the implementation of a solution to a broken system and emphasizes the gridlock within the United States government.

While there are many differing opinions on the topic of immigration, everyone across the aisle agrees that it is a large problem that needs to be fixed. If our governmental officials would stop playing politics and actual do their job of governing, we might already have a plan in place. Our government needs to put aside their differences and figure out a way to comprise on immigration reform. Without a comprehensive plan in place, no progress will be made and our immigration problem will just become exceedingly worse off. The United States’ democracy has a distinguished reputation which is one of the reasons why so many people want to immigrate here. Both parties need to figure out a way to work together and live up to that standard.

Alison AbramsAlison Abrams is currently pursuing her Bachelors of Science in Mathematical Sciences at Bentley University with a Liberal Studies Major in Ethics and Social Responsibility. Through her experience with interest groups and political campaigns and her volunteerism at various non-profits, Alison has developed a passion for political action and social justice. She is very excited that her internship with the Governmental and External Affairs department here at Wheelock has allowed her to research and discuss various policy issues